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Getting the power/phone installed to the house site has been problematic for a whole host of reasons.  But they finally started this week.  Of course we’re going underground with all of it.  Just about exactly a mile.  It’s hard to imagine a worse time of year to be doing this, but the contracting crew was unfazed.  Up on a windy ridge in 20 degree F temps plowing away snow so that you can dig trenches in the frozen ground – just another day on the job.  I love the fine folks in Floyd County.

Putting in Power

Putting in Power

Word is we should have power on the site by middle of next week.  That will be a huge relief to the contractor, who has been having to run a really noisy and obnoxious generator for the past year to supply power for tools and lighting.  And one more permanent thing done towards move-in.


We’ve finally started roofing the garages – over a year after we started.  Initially we had planned on doing slate.  That is until I started getting quotes.  Because of the steep sections of the roof in the Queen Anne house, and that there are over 50 separate sections of roof on the house alone, the quotes ranged from ridiculous to astronomical.

Enter Vasse Vaught.  Recommended by architect Paul Sullivan at Streamline TimberFrame, Vasse is a local guy who trained and apprenticed in Switzerland in copper-roofing craftsmanship.  Slate can last 150 years or more, but so can copper.  In Europe they take this kinda stuff very seriously – you have to go to school and apprentice for many years. Vasse and I met several times, I spent countless hours on the internet researching,  Vasse made an offer that was fair, and we shook hands.

Vasse on Garage

Vasse on Garage

Vasse is a local craftsman, with a local business, who needed work – just my kinda guy.  He does consulting gigs all over the world, and I told him he could leave when he needed to, so this was his kinda project.  But he told me not to post his web-site – he figures this house is going to keep him busy for the next year or so.  He buys copper in thousand pound rolls, and every single piece of roof is hand-formed and soldered.  In the picture above, he’s soldering one of the seven pieces of flashing to trim in just this one piece of cornice-work.  Old-world craftsmanship.  Worth doing.  Worth supporting.


Well, the second cabin is just about complete.  The chimney is up, it’s all chinked, the stairs are even built inside.  It won’t have any plumbing or electricity – it will be just like it would have been 150 years ago.  A historical artifact, and nothing more.

Log Cabin

Log Cabin

Highland Timberframe, who rebuilt this cabin, are very talented fellers who pay very close attention to detail.  The pegs to keep together the porch posts were all hand-carved:

Pegs

Pegs

The stairs presented a problem.  Originally they were in the middle of the house, but had been moved to an end-wall by the time of taking the cabin down. We decided to put the stairs where they originally were, but it was so steep, we couldn’t quite figure out how they did it.  The original builders may have not done it this way, but Jim and I had both seen this old-timey stair configuration for steep stairs, and thought they just might have.  It’s really a very clever and non-intuitive approach to solving the problem of steep stairs, allowing much better “clearance” for each foot-fall.  You can see it’s as steep as the modern step-ladder behind it, but in a lot of ways has much better ergonomics.

Cabin Stairs

Cabin Stairs

Trish and I still aren’t quite sure what we’ll exactly do with the cabin.  Probably put some rockers on the porch and come up and sit sometimes – it’s a beautiful site.  Maybe plant some fruit trees.  There are some yucca plants here that surely date back to the original homeplace, but the Moore’s would have also likely planted iris, daylilly, grape hyacinth, forsythia, and quince – all plants very easily transplanted and propogated from neighbors.  Those plants are almost always indicative of an old mountain house site.  So we’ll probably plant some of those, as we have some old-timey varieties transplanted from old mountain house sites many decades ago now.

How many stories does this old homesite tell? Sometime almost exactly 150 years ago, Noah Moore’s wife was reportedly standing right next to her cabin where this one now sits, holding her infant baby in her arms when she was struck by lightning and was killed.  The baby survived.  But this cabin sat for a hundred years – no telling the other stories….


There likely won’t be any new posts to this site until February, as Trish and I are at our house in Nevis, West Indies until then.  As one of the worst things you can do for pasture/hay land is to leave it long for the winter, I did manage to mow every square inch of land that I could mow – about 150 acres – before we left.  Sometime soon, probably in February, we’ll be setting miles of fencing so that most of this land can be rotated into pasture to add the much-needed manure to the fields. This spring, we’ll be planting trees on around 30 acres of steep pasture that probably should have never been pasture in the first place.  But I’ll be managing that in shorts and sandals from the edge of the Caribbean Sea.  Fifteen degrees below zero with the windchill at Crooked River Farm this morning.  Just a tad too chilly for me. Yet the entire crew from Sticks and Stones was on site this morning, diligently working along outside in the cold.  I’ve got to wonder how productive they can be in this cold, but I sure admire their dedication.

Working in snow

brrrrrrr......


We raised the “Family Room” timberframe today.  We need to rename that room, as it doesn’t fit in with a circa 1900 house.  Perhaps just “The Pine Room” or something, as it will be almost entirely constructed of the practically extinct longleaf heart pine.  This frame has a bunch of “embellishments”, that is, ornamentation not related to the structural requirements.  There are a lot of chisel-marks remaining that show the many places that essentially had to be hand-carved.  It’s cool – unlike any other timberframe, and showing an additional level of artistry and craftsmanship.

The process started months ago, with StreamLine Timberframe procuring the reclaimed wood and cutting all the individual timbers at their shop here in Floyd just as with the garage building.  The timbers were brought out early in the week, where a combination of their crew and our Sticks and Stones crew  assembled them using just the wooden pegs.

Frames ready to go up

Frames ready to go up

Even though this is only a one-story room, we still had to bring out a crane to get these pieces up and in place.

Lifting into Place

Lifting into Place

The crews got the four bents erected, along with their ridge beams just as the sun went down.  On Monday, we’ll get the purlins in place and start drying it in.

In Place

In Place

End of the Day

End of the Day


Dropped in that wine cellar ceiling today.  Jeff Ligon, the concrete subcontractor, had to build the foundation just right.  Sticks and Stones had to to frame it up just right.  Streamline had to build it just right.  And it all had to come together today.  And it did!

Wine Cellar Ceiling Going In

Wine Cellar Ceiling Going In

Bruce, of Sticks and Stones, had put a pencil line on top of the stud wall to show where the ceiling frame should rest.  It came to less than a 1/4″ difference at the worst spot.  Amazing to me.  The Streamline and S&S folks made some jokes about the old days of timberframing where guys would claim they use a micrometer to measure, a crayon to mark, and a chainsaw to cut.  Not that they really did that, and what these guys really do is nothing to joke about.

After we got it all lined up, Mike Stubbs from StreamLine Timberframe absent-mindedly stepped out into the middle of the frame.  Now Mike is a big feller, but that frame didn’t budge the least little bit.

Mike Stubbs

Mike Stubbs

Mike is the Shop Manager at Streamline, and has (to me) become increasingly important (or at least visible)  in this project – he seems to be everywhere.  He sawed these timbers himself, he oversaw the talented timberframing crew building it, he delivered it, and he installed it.  And he, like everyone else at Streamline, is a grrreatt guy to work with.


The octagonal room at the far end of the picture in the previous post is going to be a tower, too.  In the basement, it couldn’t be anything other than a wine cellar, right?

The ceiling in that room is a timberframe and Streamline Timberframe has been waiting to deliver it.  Mike Stubbs, of Streamline Timberframe, built a jig yesterday to more or less load it on the back of one of their trucks to move it out to the farm.

Wine Cellar Timberframe

Wine Cellar Timberframe

It’s made almost entirely from reclaimed oak, having been milled from logs out of an old log cabin.  Streamline Timberframe sawed the rough logs for me on the sawmill in the back of the picture, and then built it in the building right behind the camera.  To the right of the picture, you can see the heartpine “family room” all cut up and ready to assemble.  We should be ready for that in a couple of weeks.

The room above the wine cellar is going to be cherry panelled walls, so it will have ceiling timbers identical to this, except in cherry.  The room above will be a bit more elaborate and have black walnut timbers.  Much of the walnut and cherry were sourced from dead trees on Crooked River Farm, but some had to be sourced from other local farms.  But it’s all sourced locally, cut locally, and manufactured locally.


It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t making progress.

The last pictures of the house were just of a hole in the ground with some forms in place.  We’ve got that hole pretty well filled with basement now, including most all of the framing and the first floor trusses in place.

1st floor

1st floor

Those four posts are the base of the tower which will rise (I think) 57′ feet from the basement floor all the way up to the attic (and beyond).  The main stairs will wrap around it.  The tower is all timberframe, and made out of heart pine.  Heart Pine is long-leaf pine, previously the primary pine species found from Virginia to Texas.  Because it grew so straight and true, was as strong as oak, was very rot resistant, and hard as a rock, it was extremely desirable for everything from ships masts to high end flooring.  As such it was pretty much totally cut over by 1900 and is now all but extinct.  The main source for it now is reclaimed timbers from old manufacturing buildings such as cotton mills and the like.  These timbers came out of the dismantling of the original Old Crow whiskey distillery building in KY, I’m told.   The “family room” will also be a heart pine room with all the timbers, flooring, panelling, and ceiling decking made of reclaimed heart pine.  That portion of the house should also be going up in the next few weeks, as Streamline has finished cutting the frame, and we’re just about ready for it.


Well, we poured a little bit of concrete this past week to make the basement.  17 truck loads, to be exact.  That’s a lot of concrete in one day.  The trucks were backed up.

Concrete Trucks

Concrete Trucks

The fellers who did the form work built all the forms for the basement in just a couple of days.  It’s amazing how hard they work, and how quickly they get the forms up (and down).

Pouring Concrete

Pouring Concrete

The first floor trusses have been delivered, and I’m told that I’ll be able to walk around on the first floor in just the next couple of weeks.


We did finally get the basement dug out.  But WOW!  I had forgotten how much compacted subsoil expands when it is dug out of the ground and loaded onto a dump truck.  Ryan Shortt, the operator of the excavator, figured it was about 200 dump truck loads!  And all of it was shale mixed with subsoil that wouldn’t grow kudzu even if you fertilized it.  What to do?

We used about 100 dumptrucks in an upper field to fill a ravine.  We scraped all the topsoil away first, filled the ravine, covered it back over, and replanted.  About 30 were set aside for backfilling the basement after it is finished, and the rest spread over a future roadbed.  I never figured I would have to figure out how to hide 200 dump truck loads of subsoil.  I’m sure I’m not through dealing with it.

The footers for the basement walls did get dug and poured as well as all the plumbing drains and drain field for the basement.  The forms for the basement walls were delivered yesterday.  I’m told it will take less than a week for the entire basement to be formed and poured.  So this time next week maybe we’ll have a basement?

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